Trump's True Believers
I’m not one of those leftists who listens to Conservative talk radio or watches Fox News out of some strange combination of masochism, curiosity and morbid fascination. Christ, I can’t stand to look at Trump’s face or listen to his voice. The man literally turns my stomach. He makes me sick. I have a visceral negative reaction to him that somehow only seems to get stronger with time.
I am, however, someone who regularly falls down right-wing, Trump-loving rabbit holes on Twitter and Facebook for the same reasons Progressives listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Alex Jones theatrically lose his shit on an hourly basis: the aforementioned combination of masochism, curiosity and morbid fascination.
I waste time on Twitter and Facebook hate-reading the feeds and pages of the kinds of folks whose online avatars invariably feature American flags, bald eagles, Pepe the Frog or Donald Trump himself because I’m endlessly curious as to what would lead a seemingly sane, adult human being to see Donald Trump as a heroic figure beset at all sides by liars and crooks, and not the oblivious, narcissistic moron he so clearly appears to be.
This is perhaps most intense when it comes to Trump’s enormous and adoring Evangelical base. How can people who pride themselves on being Godly and righteous embrace the living definition of sin, a debauched libertine on his third marriage with a well-documented history of cheating on his various wives with porn stars and Playboy playmates?
A shocking number of Evangelicals seem to see Trump as a saved sinner anointed by God to make America Christian again. In this view, Trump’s Presidency doesn’t just represent the will of the American people: it represents God’s will as well. So to criticize the President or suggest that his election was a mistake is to question God’s will. What proud Evangelical would want to do something like that? Jesus obviously forgave Trump or he wouldn’t have made him President. Why can’t you do the same?
Alternately, Trump’s true believers tend to see the man’s child-like volatility two different but equally flattering ways. Some see Trump’s never-ending series of social media temper tantrums, bullying binges and unhinged outbursts as proof of his fundamental authenticity. This view holds that while, sure, sometimes Trump says or does unfortunate things that’s a small price to pay for a leader who communicates with his public in the brusque, angry, rage-filled manner of a caller to right-wing talk radio rather than a politician whose words and actions are scripted and thought out in advance.
In this take, thinking before you speak is a form of dishonesty and inauthenticity, the mark of a typical career politician rather than a short-fingered truth teller like Trump. People who subscribe to this vision of Trump don’t even seem to mind that, by any objective criteria Trump lies constantly, in shameless and flagrant ways. All that matters to them is that Trump seems to believe what he’s saying, even if it violently conflicts with what he’s said before. He always seems to be speaking spontaneously, off the cuff, without a script, which to them registers as honesty.
These true believers see Trump as a man who may not be sophisticated, or polished, or even particularly informed, but is always real, even when he’s lying. A separate but equally committed group of Trump worshipers subscribe to the 5th dimensional chess theory that us Progressives love to mock because it’s so obviously wrong and insane.
This theory holds that Trump’s pathetic public tantrums and endless series of faux pas represent not the idiotic antics of a dim-witted man-child unable to think beyond the immediate moment but rather a series of brilliant chess moves executed by a savvy operator always thinking ten steps ahead.
To them, Trump is only playing the fool as a way of slyly achieving his personal and political goals. To them, underneath the anger and stupidity and endless self-regard lies a secret core of canny calculation and Machiavellian cunning. In this take, Trump only seems like a buffoon. In actuality, everything he does serves a valuable purpose.
For these true believers, Trump using the widely mocked phrase “Mission Accomplished” to brag about the Syria air strikes isn’t an astonishingly bone-headed move by someone with a non-existent grasp of history, recent or otherwise, but rather another calculated move designed to antagonize or distract his political enemies into a state of unproductive apoplexy.
To give these delusional people credit, tweeting “Mission Accomplished” is such an audacious exercise in idiocy that it’s hard to believe that on some level Trump wasn’t deliberately trolling his critics. No one could possibly be that dense, could they?
When you see Trump as divinely anointed, the epitome of realness/authenticity or a very stable genius playing a five dimensional Chess game only he understands then individual gaffes and blunders don’t seem to matter as much. They’re less flaws than features and I fear that nothing, but nothing can possibly reach people so deeply invested in narratives that depict Trump as something bordering on superhuman rather than the flailing, overwhelmed moron he obviously is.
Please consider contributing to the Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place Patreon over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace